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As the Japanese sweep through the East Indies during World War II, Dr. Wassell is determined to escape from Java with some crewmen of the cruiser Marblehead. Based on a true story of how Dr. Wassell saved a dozen or so wounded sailors who were left behind when able bodied men were evacuated to Australia. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For his third TechniColor extravaganza Cecil B. DeMille (CB) took on World War II (WWII). Yes, THE BIG ONE, THE BIGGEST ONE and hopefully never to be repeated. Now what would you expect from CB master of the BIG. Some tide changing battle like MIDWAY were the fate of Empires hang in the balance. An aerial epic with our boys and their bombers up against the flying hordes of Nazi Germany. NO, we get some obscure incident in an early war debacle centered around Java. Listening to one of Franklin Delano Roosevelts (President U.S.A.) fire side chats (ie radio) CB picked up on the story of Dr. Corydon M. Wassell and how he evacuated wounded soldiers and seaman from the approaching Japanese invaders. Of course if made today by Michael Moore, Steven Spielberg or Oliver Stone the Japanese would be liberators of the Javanese from their evil colonial overlords, the Dutch. Funny though the Japanese liberation also included enslavement of their little brown brothers. Must have been some sort of 'Greater East Asian CoProsperty Sphere' bonus, full employment under duress.
Maybe we should not been that surprised by CBs choice of subject. He did have a habit of picking up on obscure historical incidents and blowing them up for the big screen. Examples of this are in his first two (2) color features THE NORTHWEST MOUNTED POLICE and REAP THE WILD WIND. The thing though this is a big, long production, filmed in color with a first rate cast which means it was very expensive and we get back very little. Think we could have at least started off with a the naval battle showing the defeat of the ABDA Fleet (American, British, Dutch, Australian) then the air attack on the Marblehead (CL12). That would of given us a clue why we were in such desperate straits. This film is largely a lost opportunity. A lot more could have been done even with keeping the story focused around Dr. Wassell. The alternative would have been to hand the project over to another director, shorten the film to ninety (90) minutes which is about what the story deserved. Sorry CB, your lowest rating yet. CB to us means CERTIFIED BIGNESS and this film is just small.
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